| Golden Gate
Review by Orb
Golden Gate is an old-fashioned, point-and-click, slide-show
style adventure. But before you write it off as just another Myst
clone, take a good look. Golden Gate is a very simple,
albeit classy, game that has aged well, and it has a style that
is not seen in other adventure games. For this fact alone, it's
Golden Gate contains the usual suspects as far as story
goes. The player is on a lonely hunt to discover an ancient treasure
that has been sequestered away somewhere in the city of San Francisco.
As the city is explored and searched, the player uncovers pieces
of the story of a treasure that is keeping a demon beast from
surfacing, as well as the people who have owned and interacted
with the treasure and beast down through hundreds of years' time.
As the game progresses and sections are solved, the player is
treated to scenes from the stories of the lives the treasure has
affected. All of these are done very competently, the acting is
acceptable and not over- or underdone, and the stories themselves
are entertaining. Because these clips are pretty brief, the remainder
of these stories are meted out in a variety of found pages or
books that turn up as the game progresses. Because of this, there
is a bit of reading required during the game to fully understand
all the aspects of the story.
But the great thing that sets Golden Gate apart is not
the run-of-the-mill story. It is the fact that it is set in San
Francisco. And this is not an idealized artist's rendering of
what the city might or should look like. Instead, the designers
ingeniously took actual locations of the City by the Bay and layered
beautiful watercolor paintings over the top of the photos. For
anyone familiar with the city, the locations will be instantly
identifiable, from the Peking Duck in a Chinatown shop window
to the curves of Lombard Street. Those who are not acquainted
with San Francisco will get a wonderful, picturesque view of it
and a clear idea of the city's rich culture. What the watercoloring
adds is a dreamy otherworldliness that is at once striking and
draws the player in.
The look of the game is not the only highlight, however. The
game has some very well-planned design choices that actually make
it timeless and fun. The cursor, in the shape of a hollow navigation
symbol, reacts clearly to hot spots, shows possible directional
movements, and changes to guide gameplay in a way all games should
The game also has a main map feature that allows the player quick
access to previously visited locations and an unheard-of secondary
map feature that allows the player to jump to a chosen location
on Angel Island, which is a fairly expansive area in the game.
This keeps the story moving and the fun up and reduces the sensation
of trudging back and forth in gameplay areas in a redundantly
boring manner. The game is also wide open from the get-go, so
virtually any area can be traveled to and examined. This of course
means the game stays very entertaining, and it is impossible to
get bogged down or stuck in any one particular location.
Puzzles in Golden Gate are challenging, but not overly
so. One interesting aspect is that the designers decided to have
the puzzles never reset. If you move out of a puzzle screen then
return to it, you will find the puzzle as you left it. This actually
serves to increase the difficulty level of the puzzlesand
the enjoyment of them, really. There are some chestnuts here,
such as magic square and sliders, but many also rely on gathered
information, which makes note-taking a must. There is some inventory,
but these items, for the most part, forward story progression
and completion of the game rather than being parts of puzzles.
There are minimal ambient sounds, mostly things like creaking
stairs or crying seagulls. It is actually a quiet, languid game,
and this is really part of its charm. Music is pretty and unobtrusive,
similar to the music in Pandora's Box or the Kyrandia
series, mostly lilting, sometimes quietly ominous.
As for the San Francisco depicted in Golden Gate, despite
the fact that it has the real SF as a foundation, there are no
people on the streets or in the park, and anyone that knows the
city at all will find this a little unnatural. Another interesting
thing is the choices made as to which locations were included.
Pacific Heights, the Cliff House and the Japanese Tea Garden in
Golden Gate Park are here, while North Beach, the De Young Museum
and the Haight are not. The Old Mint is used, but not the Tenderloin.
Okay, expecting game designers to use the home of the porn-king
Farrell brothers is probably way over the top, but you haven't
seen everything 'til you've walked through the flashing lights,
bizarre street people and club hawkers down there. It's a part
of SFjust a little bit of the underbelly.
No, what the player gets is the nickel tour of what the uninitiated
would like to see if they traveled the city, which is probably
the best move the designers could have made.
As for drawbacks, the game is slowed down measurably by the fact
that it is played directly from the disk, and each movement must
be read from the disk. But then again, the whole game is built
to have a serene, leisurely gameplay style, so this is not completely
out of character.
Golden Gate is a solid, if simple, game that is mostly
forgotten but certainly worth playing.
Developer: IX Entertainment
Publisher: Panasonic Interactive Media
Release Date: 1997
Four Fat Chicks Links
486/66 MHz or higher (Pentium recommended)
16 MB memory
2X or higher CD-ROM drive (4X recommended)
68040/50 MHz or higher (Power PC recommended)
16 MB memory
System 7.1 (OS 7.5 recommended)
256 or thousands of colors
2X ROM drive (4X recommended)
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